Back in the Swing of Walking

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I’ve not much spare time left in my days at present because, when I’m not climbing ladders trying to rid my life of pigeons, or knitting a triangle or square for the upcoming secretive Knitting Nannas Against Gas yarn-bombing event, I’m reading The Book Thief; flipping my way through the 500+ pages, tracing the tale related by Death while the characters live & breathe in my bedroom as I begin another pre-Summer morning beside a bedside lamp.

Though I do manage to grab an hour for something other than climbing, reading or knitting when Ben, my son, heads off to his karate class of an evening.This is how it goes …

We travel together in the Mazda 3. I park the transport up from Richard Marlin’s Success Martial Arts academy, then glance sideways at Ben as he enters the space carrying the tote bag containing his gi, belt and water bottle, before delivering a respectful bow and stepping bare-footed into Sensei Debbie’s arena to unlock his mojo.

Outside my brown Telent joggers lead me westward towards the streets of South Lismore, aiming to take my treads on more-than-just-a-pleasant-stroll, wearing down rubber as I move forward – and sometimes sideways – into a renewed sense of upwards-of-walking-paced fitness; & with a few tricep dips and chest presses thrown in at strategic points along the way when a fence provides the metal & space for a grip.

‘I saw you walking out near the little bridge over south,’ says my neighbour later in the evening.

‘Thank God I wasn’t out on a secret RSVP hook-up,’  I say to Darren the crane driver with the long blond pony-tail. ‘ Seems a woman can’t grab a bit of anonymous space around the town, no matter how far she roams.’

‘It’s just that I used to see you beating the bitumen around the cattle sales’ yards at the northern end of town most mornings; and just thought you do hoof it around Lismore quite a bit.’

‘Not as much now as I used to; when a one-and-a-half hour walking session was almost the daily norm.’

Still the South Lismore walking loop is getting me back into the swing of things. I’m certainly enjoying exploring new areas of the town – those southern sections previously obscured from my life for one reason or another – while finding new ways to satisfy my exploratory nature and rekindle a mindful focus on the here-and-now.

And Ben is happier now that I drive his invigorated body home after the hype of a karate class stretches his muscles and slightly unsettles the fragile hold he aims to maintain on his mind on a daily basis.

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The Good Lie

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Friday evening our footsteps lead us – at the butt end of the day – to the Birch, Carroll & Coyle Cinema in downtown Lismore for a special fund-raising viewing of The Good Lie.

Beforehand, as the first customers of the night, we dine on Supreme pizza at the hotel restaurant across the road. It’s a great choice at the right place, for the right price.

Since there’s never too much traffic around the Zadoc Street intersection at this time, we then jaywalk to the cinema before  mingling in the foyer & meeting up with friends – of the black- and white-skinned variety: a quick chat with the ever-vivacious Dji Dji, then a blathering of open-hearted conversation, with Mary & Judith since ‘it’s been a while.’

‘Ben’s looking particularly well. Seems to be more confident & conversational than before,’ says an ever-observant Judith.

‘It’s the presentations he’s been doing at TAFE. He’s needed to place himself in public view most Wednesdays; & voice an opinion on the research he’s been undertaking online, on a variety of domesticated animals.For his Animal Studies units.’

We follow other footsteps, placing our soles upon the down-trodden threads of gaudy carpet as we journey into the main auditorium, licking on choc-topped ice-creams before conversations soften as a guest speaker opens her heart, & our minds, to the work she’s been doing in South Sudan as a nurse for Médecins Sans Frontières: providing lifesaving medical care in the midst of an ongoing crisis as South Sudan continues to grapple with grave and urgent humanitarian medical needs, brought on by conflict and massive displacement within & beyond its borders.

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After fighting broke out in Juba on 15 December 2013, and subsequently in several other states, over 1.7 million South Sudanese people have been displaced from their homes. 1.3 million of these remain within the country, while more than 450,000 are seeking refuge in the neighbouring countries:  in the Lietchuor refugee camp in the Gambella area of Ethiopia; the Adjumani district in northern Uganda; in Nyumanzi transit centre and in two permanent camps: Aylo 1 and Aylo 2;  if not in Maban, home to about 128,000 refugees who have fled the ongoing conflict in Sudan’s Blue Nile state: those caught between two wars – unable to safely return home, and anxious about the encroaching South Sudanese conflict.

The conflict has devastated the country’s already fragile healthcare system, leaving volunteers to fight the severe outbreaks of malnutrition & malaria, alongside the sharp increases in kala azar cases, those suffering the parasitic disease transmitted by the sand fly that is almost always fatal if left untreated.

The movie takes us into this land of troubles & woe and introduces us to the footprints – and handprints – being left on African dust across a brutal – yet beautiful – savannah by the displaced wanderers; as the Lost Boys of the Sudan, caught in a brutal civil war that kills their parents and threatens them with abduction or death by the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army, along with a seemingly-never-ending queue of  boys and girls as they walk hundreds of miles to the relative safety of Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya.

Bent on survival, they become predators, feasting on an antelope killed by leopards, and  crossing a river clogged with corpses rather than continuing into the path of rapid gun-fire. Only their mantra “I want to live, I do not want to die” sustains them until they reach the barbed-wire enclosure of Kenya’s refugee camp.

Fast track forward:  accepted into the USA, and settled into Kansas, lives change  … but hearts, and principles, seemingly never do as they’re assisted by facilitators, rather than saviours; surely adjusting to their new world and becoming heroes of their own lives.

Alongside the film’s respect for facts and truths, ‘ harrowing biographies lend heft to a story drenched in heartbreak’  … though sometimes its best to allow one’s footsteps to follow the line of  ‘a good lie’ to otherwise bring on the possibility of redemption, and of course tears in the process. Nonetheless, as Richard Corliss writes for Time Magazine, ‘If a moviegoer can’t cry for the great tragedy of these Sudanese children, and be touched by their small victories, then who on earth deserves our tears and cheers?’

With a generous number of poignant moments, the movie takes its title from Huckleberry Finn’s distinction of good and bad lies — a good lie is one you tell to right a wrong or save a soul.

We do not leave The Good Lie unmoved; for  its heart – like our own selves on this Friday evening in Lismore – was really  in the right place.

The Lost Boys of Sudan

Pigeons

bird-damage-pest-treatment-sydney-serviceMy feet were on the ground pretty early today. In fact I’d padded a few footsteps through the house in the dark of night – though really the wee small hours of the morning – after being woken from sleep by the cooing of pigeons – the long-standing feathered enemy – above my bedroom window.

It seems the $2,000 already spent on metal spikes as part of an on-going process to deter such rogue pigeons from roosting & nesting beneath the gables of my roof has proven to be simply ‘not enough fiscal outlay’ to yet ‘do the job’ on these persistent critters.

‘They’ve such a passion for your place,’ says the builder I choose to ring;  engaging him in conversation a bit beyond dawn suggesting he may like to look into designing a box-type fixture out of clear plastic corrugated roofing sheets with edges secured with silicon because the roof can’t possibly take another row of spikes.

Nice thing is, I hear  a degree of sympathy in his responses.

Good thing is he’s going to take a look at the roof-line to familiarise himself with the problem that persists so as to devise the best solution for me; because it appears the City Council doesn’t deal with pests of this nature; nor does its staff know who’s best to ring. So much for the high rates we pay for our sense of community well-being.

I read on Google that shooting the problem birds at night is the best way to deal with such avian persistence. Yet who’s going to come to my home to climb onto my roof (in downtown Lismore, New South Wales) in the dark of night with a loaded gun?

Perhaps if I advertised on-line I may find a willing dare-devil: an Afghan War veteran with unfinished business on his mind yet merely the ghosts of Taliban-led insurgents in his sights.

And though pigeons have long played an important role in wars as military messengers ( until 1957; or  1996 in the case of the disbanding of the Pigeon section of the Swiss army) who wants a guy with a gun snooping around the place at night. It certainly would not be in the community’s best interests.

Still, though the French military used hot-air balloons to transport homing pigeons past enemy lines, and one heroic Blue Check pigeon named Cher Ami was awarded the Croix de Guerre for heroic service (after delivering twelve important messages during the Battle of Verdun (1918)  despite having been shot through the breast, and with a crucial message being found in a capsule hanging from a ligament of her shattered leg, thus  saving the lives of about 200 US military personnel), I do need to come up with a somewhat-crucial security pact with these feathered foe so as to mark an end to this long-time mission; an intense & drawn-out mission where civilians continue to pay the price while insurgency drags on.

Until then my nocturnal life remains in dream-breaking limbo; mission unresolved;  awaiting the final withdrawal of the feathered troops.

Though, when comparing these common-variety communal pests to their beautiful fan-tail cousins,  I see no similar white tail-feathers that can be raised in submission.

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And by then I may have quite forgotten what winning looks like.

Besides, when a pigeon lands on my roof in the midst of thousands of other quite similar rural bungalows positioned along straight pot-holed roadways just two blocks from Lismore Square who, other than the sympathetic builder, is really paying attention?

Planning for Christmas

au-canberra-0025We’ve arranged the Sydney trip for the Christmas period. This will place us somewhat closer to our nation’s capital, Canberra;  just three hours away from Sydney’s Harbour Bridge using the M5 South West Motorway. And thanks to Ilya Genkin for the lovely ‘uplifted’  image of our seat of government (and probably outwards & upwards toward Mount Ainslie, if my bearings are well-balanced).

Though we’ll do nothing more than visiting the rellies – rather than acting like respectful tourists at the War Memorial, hiring a bike to explore the cycleways of Lake Burley Griffin, or checking out the night sky at the 11-metre Planetarium at Mt Stromlo with sixty-or-more curious would-be astronomers after taking in the sweeping day-light views of the Brindabella Ranges, from the Cotter Dam to the Yass Valley – I’ll need to register for an e-toll pass ( by hopping on to  the  <https://myrta.com/myEToll/ > link); then arrange for an e-tag at least three days before we head off down the bitumen towards the Australian Capital Territory. What a shame you can’t just hop in your car & follow your nose towards scenery any more.

But I guess without a Navman attached to my windscreen, that’s pretty much what I do when I hop behind the wheel of a mighty white Mazda 3 to get from ‘A’ to ‘B’ with the best of intentions & the mightiest of hopes.

If I do decide to step up into advanced technologically-led traveling I’ll need to decide on the device to buy. Now that’s surely to become an exercise in trust: in the store, and the salesman. And perhaps even my credit union.

Seems I can check out the Move 50 5″ GPS at The Good Guys or  head up to Target Australia in Goonellabah to pay $2 more for the same product; or perhaps seek out a Tom Tom 5″ from Harvey Norman’s downtown store  if I want to hand over more than a hundred bucks.

I guess there’s more to this south-bound traveling than flapping wings, or hopping on a crowded bus and a Halong Bay junk with a backpack, a group of new-found friends and a trusted local guide. It’s eyes on a 5″ screen and then beyond an insect-smitten windscreen so as to be guided southwards – and most definitely wide-eyed – during the simmering days of an Australian summer.

Seems there’s more to be done than first meets the eye.